Israel's Higher Law
makes a valuable sociological contribution to the important debate about Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state. The heart of the book lies in a series of lively interviews with a range of representative Israelis about their own interpretations of the problem. Informative and characteristic, these interviews are the next best thing to actually being on the ground and hearing Israeli voices directly. The method of addressing a problem of political theory through lay interviews is rich and innovative, producing surprising results that subvert more formalist approaches and remind us that political philosophy is alive and well as a popular vernacular practice. (Noah Feldman, New York University)
Based on extensive interviews in 2000 with thirty-one Israelis from various sectors of the society (secular, Religious Zionists, ultra-Orthodox, traditional, and Arabs), Mazie probes how ordinary Israelis see and experience various conflicts between the Judaic religion and the Israeli state. Indeed, Mazie's ample selections from these interviews give the book an engaging, animated tone, which complements nicely the author's theoretical, Rawlsian interests. (Journal of Church & State
Can Israel be at once a Jewish and democratic state? Against a background of political theory, history, and constitutional law, Steven Mazie skillfully explores the responses of a wide range of Israelis—secular and religious, Jewish and Arab—to this core question of national identity. The results are complex, often surprising, and always illuminating. (William A. Galston)
From the Publisher
In Israel's Higher Law, Steven Mazie draws on the voices of Israeli citizens to shed new light on the relationship between liberal democracy and religion. By analyzing Israelis' perspectives on a number of divisive issues including Jewish state symbols, marriage law, public Sabbath observance and funding for religious education Mazie identifies a rift between Israeli and American understandings of "separation of religion and state" and a gulf between Jewish and Arab citizens' visions for Israel's religion-state arrangement. Mazie's compelling study offers more valuable insight into these dilemmas than any publication to date and proposes new guidelines for resolving them. Israel's Higher Law is the definitive work on the tensions between religion and democracy in Israel. It is a must-read for anyone interested in politics and Jewish studies.